Finding Balance: Don't Let Your Dance Life Be Your WHOLE Life
Dancers don’t have nine-to-fives (at least not solely). We don’t have a magic hour where we stop thinking about work. We don’t have higher-ups telling us what to do and when. We are the only boss we answer to daily.
As artistic entrepreneurs, we create our own goals, to-do lists, schedules, and more. This can be beautifully freeing and sometimes scary. Here are a few tips to help you stay focused, healthy, and happy in your career.
Make goals for each day.
Most artists either don’t know where to start or don’t know how to stop. Daily goal-setting is helpful for both types of dancers. Each night before you go to sleep or each morning when you wake up, get clear on how you want to utilize your day. I suggest first writing your ultimate goal and then writing three manageable goals for the day. Example:
- Ultimate Goal: Dance for Ailey II
- Today’s Goals: 1) Stretch for an hour 2) Study repertoire 3) Take a ballet and contemporary class
- Ultimate Goal: Dance for Beyoncé
- Today’s Goals: 1) Go to the gym 2) Book headshot session 3) Edit video content for Instagram
Giving a purpose to each day will keep you from wandering aimlessly through life hoping your dream job falls in your lap. As you complete each task, allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment. This can be as simple as placing a check mark beside the goal or rewarding yourself to an episode of your favorite show when you complete all three. Be proud of every step you take toward your dreams!
Know when to say no.
Dancers tend to have a lot on their plates. We balance teaching jobs, day jobs, gigs, and side hustles on top of rehearsals, classes, workouts, self-promotion, and more. Sometimes we forget that rest is an integral part of that equation. At times, it all feels overwhelming.
To stay healthy and happy, we must pick and choose the activities that will help us most in our career. That means sometimes saying no. When an opportunity presents itself, decide to accept or decline after asking yourself a few questions.
- Is this the type of work I want to be doing?
- Will it connect me with the right people?
- Can I balance this with everything else on my plate?
- Will I receive joy out of doing this project?
- Will this project get me closer to my ultimate goal?
Make the decision that aligns most with your personal and career goals, nobody else’s.
Don’t stay in your lane all the time.
The more you diversify your creative experience, the greater your art will become. If you’re a contemporary dancer, take hip hop and watch your musicality soar. If you’re a hip-hopper, take a ballet class, and see your lines improve. Watch performances of all kinds to see how other artists think.
Also, make time for the activities you enjoy outside of dance. Take a walk, visit a museum, try a new brewery, take an acting or kickboxing class, listen to a podcast, find new music, go to a poetry slam, read, paint, journal, draw, sleep—anything your heart desires. Taking this time will revitalize your mind and your movement.
Learn from others.
A perfect formula for success doesn’t exist, but we can certainly learn from those who have created careers in the industry. Identify the people who are doing what you want to be doing and figure out how they got there. How do they train? What do they eat? What does their schedule look like? Their portfolio and social media? Who are their biggest inspirations? Ask these questions of your peers, teachers, and mentors. Listen to interviews of successful dancers and choreographers. Piecemeal this information into a path that works for you. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just make it better.
Have faith. Love yourself and what you do. It’s key.
About the Author
Kalyn Hardman, a native of Watkinsville, Georgia, has been dancing since the age of three. She received her early training from Oconee Youth School of Performance and later studied ballet, modern, and aerial dance through the University of Georgia Dance Department and Core Concert Dance and Aerial Company.
In 2014, she moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in the commercial dance industry while completing her English degree at Georgia State University. She trained in a variety of dance styles as a scholarship student at Gotta Dance Atlanta and performed with esteemed companies such as Cherrise Wakeham’s Project 7, Victor Jackson’s The Accolades, and CiCi Kelley’s Dare Dream Dance Professional Division.
Kalyn has worked with renowned choreographers such as Aakomon Jones, Jamaica Craft, Jeremy Green, and Bubba Carr. Not only has she graced the stage of Usher’s New Look: United to Ignite and Ceelo Green’s Salute to America, but she has worked on the set of Charles Stone’s latest movie Step Sisters, Adam Shankman’s Step Up: High Water, Bille Woodruff’s Honey 4, and the Netflix original Insatiable. Kalyn is a versatile dancer who seeks spread compassion and empathy throughout the industry.
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